The recent issue of Sojourners magazine cited some sobering facts about the state of the prison system in the US:
- 7.4 million people were under the control of the US criminal justice system in 2007. I’m not exactly sure what is meant by “under control,” but that is over 2 percent of the population, which is shocking.
- 67 percent of people released from prison are re-arrested within three years. So, the number of repeat offenders in prison is substantial. The question is, how much does incarceration contribute to recidivism? More to the point, would crime decrease if we could keep first-time offenders out of prison? The environment has to be another factor, and in most cases, a released prisoner returns to the same environment; that doesn’t help. Economics would be another factor; see the next point.
- 83.5 percent of the people in jail (in 2002) earned less than 2,000 dollars a month prior to being arrested. Certainly, economic pressure is a factor in the commission of crimes. Interestingly, a 2,000 dollars month threshold is quite a bit more than the poverty level, which the US Census Bureau put at 9,183 dollars a year for a single person in 2002. Two thousand a month roughly equates to an hourly wage of 12.50 dollars, quite a bit higher than the current minimum wage. This all suggests that viable employment, at an appropriate wage, is part of the solution to lower crime and incarceration.
(The title of this post comes from the game of Monopoly and was chosen merely to be catchy and provoking. Interestingly, Go Directly to Jail is also the title of a book on this subject. I haven’t read it, but it may be worth checking out. The product description on Amazon is most promising, but the reader reviews suggest that it digresses from that tack. Caveat emptor.)
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Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.